Fresh off a 38-0 pounding of South Carolina State, first-year University of Central Florida Head Football Coach Scott Frost, breezed into Michigan Stadium with his victorious Knights.
Frost was savoring his first win as a football head man and also his first win of the season, together with his first trip into Michigan Stadium. He and his charges no doubt intended to entertain the 109,295 member stadium crowd, and additionally the TV audience, by filling the afternoon with an Appalachian State style upset of the highly favored Wolverines.
That UCF intention was thought by the Wolverines to be, and it proved to be, an impossible agenda for UFC. The highly favored Wolverines, fresh off their convincing 63-3 demolition of Hawaii’s Rainbow Warrior’s, had no desire to accommodate such a horrendous scenario. They proved it by thoroughly pummeling the Knights.
SCOTT FROST A FAMILIAR ANN ARBOR FOOTBALL NAME: Those of us who recall the 1997 split National Championship will recall that Scott Frost was the QB of the Nebraska eleven that, through luck and politics, split the national title that year with the unbeaten Wolverines. Frost was very vocal in favor of the split as he too politicked. I think the thing that swung the deal, was AD Tom Osborne’s retirement.
A genuine Nebraska coaching legend, then retiring Nebraska AD Tom Osborne shamelessly politicked for a title share, using his retirement as leverage. As he was one of the most successful Coaches in football history, he successfully parlayed his big news retirement as Nebraska AD into a title share. That event is not recalled fondly by Michigan fans old enough to recall the situation. And neither is Frost.
It was the fervent wish of most of the Wolverine fans of the day that the Huskers face the Wolverines in a playoff. It was thought that the previously lucky Huskers would get shucked and shocked.
Saturday, per press reports, the imaginative Scott Frost talked in his press conference about his charges out hitting the Wolverines during this game.
He must not have seen the same game I did. His team sold out to stop the run and indeed they did an effective job of it, holding the Wolverines to 119-yards on 41 carries. Meanwhile the Wolverines produced 312-yards and 4 TDs passing, mostly from play action, and caused another solid victory. While the Knights came to play, and played hard, so did Michigan.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUPREME: The Wolverine special teams were special on this Saturday. Kenny Allen kicked three FGs, but fumbled a punt snap. DE/DT Chris Wormley blocked two field goals, and Tyree Kinnel partially blocked a punt, and recovered a kick off fumble. Tyree also played a part in outstanding KO and punt coverages. All of this assisted in Michigan in starting its offensive series at a 47-yard average. The Wolverines won the special teams battles, and they impacted the game.
DENTS AND DINGS: During UCF game week, Coach Harbaugh had reluctantly chosen to spit out a few words through clenched teeth regarding player dents and dings. Early he said Lewis was “working through something”. In addition to resting Lewis last Saturday against Hawaii, he chose to rest him against UCF.
On pre-game Monday he said that Mo Hurst would go Saturday, and he was out there, having a tremendous outing. Left Guard Ben Braden also returned to action.
DE Taco Charlton limped off the field last Saturday with what Harbaugh said was a tweaked ankle, and DT Bryan Mone had more tough luck, needing an MRI post game, a probable knee problem. Neither player was on deck against UCF.
RB De’Veon Smith played in the game against Hawaii, was dinged, and was expected to play against UCF, but was later said to be day to day. Even so, he was on deck against UFC, and running tough. WR Eddie McDoom had one nice run, but was injured.
Linebacker Noah Furbush did not play against Hawaii and was not back for UCF.
The good news is that there does not appear to be any season ending injuries among them, but it is a bit of concern that M’s depth is tested so often so soon.
NOTES ON THIS SATURDAY’S COMPETITION: UCF did not win a game last season. They were 0 and 12. They managed a convincing win this year, rolling up 38 points over SCS, and posting 462 total yards of offense. Twelve points were the result of field goals. They hit field goals of 46, 34, 45, and 37-yards. It was their first victory in 639 days. QB Justin Holman threw 2 TD passes and was 14/38 passing.
Defensively, they relied on the Griffin twins-Shaguem and Shaquill, especially Shaguem. They were great against the run.
UCF has fostered a running game built on the skill of Jawon Hamilton. He rushed for 197-yards last Saturday. They feel he will be a special player in the future. M held him to 39-yards on 12 carries with a long of 11.
WOLVERINES v KNIGHTS: The Wolverines fizzled on their first possession, and finally got going on their second. Jehu Chesson again got the ball rolling with a 35-yard catch. Another first down and Butt nabbed a Wilton toss for three-yards and the game’s first TD.
Then Wormley blocked his first punt, and it was recovered at the M 43. Two passes to Chesson got it to the UCF. Henry Poggi has a tough 8-yard catch and run to the 3. Kahlid Hill bulled it in and M was up 14.
Speight hit Amara Darboh with a pass that produced a 45-yard TD catch on a post to go up 21.
Again it was the big three receivers: Butt, Chesson, and Darboh that paced the Wolverines offensively. M’s 21 First Quarter points provided all the points Michigan needed to win.
The big three receivers had some help from unflappable QB Wilton Speight, who like Champagne, will get better with age, but unlike Champagne, is quickly improving with very little ageing. He produced 4 TDs, two each to Darboh and Chesson, and threw for 312-yards. He made a few mistakes but recovered from them quickly. He was under considerable pressure at times, and I remember once they had his big frame in their grasp, and he turned his torso and hit the pass before falling. He is turning into something special.
At the start of the second quarter, the Wolverines were on the Knights 6-yard line, but settled for a 24- yard Kenny Allen FG. The just returned from injury Mo Hurst had set up the offense with a fumble recovery, but the Wolverines stalled and settled for a FG.
Now up 24 zip, the outstanding Jabrill Peppers returned a 43-yard punt, 35-yards to the UCF 12. A few plays later Jake Butt hauled in a 14-yard TD, which was his second on the day, and M was up 31 zip.
Knight Adrian Killins awakened the un-alert Wolverines defense with a stunning 87-yard TD jaunt around end and up the sideline. He is extremely fast, with track and field speed. I have seen convincing photographic evidence by an on field photographer that shows a hold that may have allowed the runner access to the corner.
Interesting, but it wasn’t called, so it is not pertinent. The defense was asleep for this type of play, but they were outstanding for all but four of the game’s four long plays. Now it was 31 to 7.
The Wolverine offense sputtered and they had to settle for a 36-yard Allen FG after a 69-yard drive. The Wolverines had 34 to the Knight’s 7.
The Knights missed a FG, and the clock ran out on the half.
Speight opened the second half by tossing two to Butt, one for 23 and one for 17-yards. Later in the possession Wilton hit Darboh for 20-yards to the UCF-2. Khalid Hill rushed for one and then one again for a 1-yard TD. This was his second of the day, and it was now it was 41 to 7.
A muffed KO by the Knights led to a FG, as and Allen was at it again with a 37-yarder, for a 44-7 lead.
UCF then earned their second TD, by first rushing for 26-yards and then the QB D. Wilson ran for 34-yards for the TD. It was now 44-14. Poor defense of the spread bit the Wolverines again. Their QB Wilson was injured on the play and was replaced by Nick Patti.
Punter Allen fumbled a punt snap and UCF recovered on the Wolverine 48 by Allen. The third quarter ended 44-14.
In the fourth quarter M got its last score, a great catch and run by Darboh for a 39-yard TD, and the final of 51-14 was posted.
MORE DEFENSIVE HITS THAN MISSES: While the four long plays against the defense certainly is a cause for concern regarding gap integrity and edge protection, hopefully this just means that it is not the Don Brown system that is vulnerable to the spread, but mostly just the learning curve of new players.
Rashan Gary had a great game by any standard. He had two and one half sacks, three solo and three assisted tackles, and the potential for great contributions more than flashed. Gary’s inexperience may have played a part in letting out a long play or two, but that is more than well balanced by his good plays. Mike McCray and Chris Wormley also had three solo and three assisted tackles.
The team let those four long runs happen by over pursuing at the end and linebacker positions and not staying home.
The defense as a whole more than compensated for any gaffs, by their overall outstanding play. Once when Jabrill Peppers blitzed, he hammered the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage with a hit the ball carrier may still be feeling.
MORE OFFENSIVE PLUSES THAN MINUSES: One of the biggest pluses was the play of developing QB Wilton Speight. He tossed 4 TD passes, some with pinpoint timing and accuracy, and completed some downfield sooner than Jake Rudock did last year.
Wide Receivers Butt, Darboh, and Chesson have to be the best TE/WR combination in the Big Ten. During post-game interviews Butt bemoaned the fact that he dropped a couple of passes he usually collars, but he still nabbed 7 for 86 yards and two TDs, including one for 25-yards. Darboh collared 5 for 111-yards and 2 TDs, with a long of 45-yards. Chesson caught 4 for 84-yards with a long of
While the offensive line did OK in Harbaugh’s book, and I do not for a minute dispute his evaluations, there were a few signs of problems observable. They could not run the tailbacks for significant yardage early in the game. Both Evans and Smith were often stopped although the effort was there. Smith made a couple of his slam bang, how did he do that runs, but his rushing yardage was paltry. Evans couldn’t do much better. Together they managed just 73-yards, and produced 3.8 and 3.9 yards per carry respectively.
Part of this was, of course, that UCF sold out on the run, only to get bit by M’s robust passing game. Another was a vanilla offensive scheme. Still another part was the play of the offensive line in the run game didn’t open the necessary holes.
Fullback Kahlid Hill finally got the needed short TDs the RBs could not get, slamming to two TDs. He is getting to be quite an asset.
This one is all over so bring on Colorado and Go Blue!